Shop till they drop at the OC Fair

Bonnie Callow emerged from the Festival of Products area of the Orange County Fair, her arms straining under the weight of multiple shopping bags.

Every summer, the Claremont resident travels the 40 miles from her home to Costa Mesa.

"It's nostalgic," she said about the fair. "It reminds me of my childhood."

While many people travel far and wide for carnival games, rides and a taste of the fair's peculiar fried foods, Callow makes the journey to shop. She considers the fair a shopping destination.

On Wednesday, Callow could be found in the

Festival of Products building, which was packed. Some fairgoers no doubt flocked to the area for air-conditioned relief from the stifling summer heat, while others strolled from booth to booth to check out the latest products — many of them "as seen on TV" and, these days, online.

For businesses that set up temporary shop at a county fair, the venue provides a unique opportunity to do live infomercial-style sales pitches.

From bright-purple jewelry cleaner to a nonstick mat for a grill, the Festival of Products offers fairgoers household items they never knew they needed.

Callow's purchases included Hawaiian shirts for her husband and seasoning that she plans to use on vegetables from her garden.

"They're just silly things that tomorrow I'll probably regret buying, but today I'm having a fabulous time," Callow said.

Near the entrance to the product area, fairgoers admired small blue, black and orange hand-painted saucer-style graters that, unlike the traditional metal types, allow cooks to turn lemon zest and garlic into paste for cooking.

Around the corner, shoppers were hit with the aroma of steaming vegetables from a pot that promised faster cooking times and easier cleanups. Shoppers sat in front of the booth on folding chairs as a man with a headset microphone told them their lives were too busy for traditional cookware.

Those who ventured down the aisle further were hit with another potent aroma, one of concentrated air fresheners. A Scent Bomb employee handed out sample papers in an attempt to attract shoppers with the essence of eucalyptus.

Anthony Whyte has traveled to several county fairs for Scent Bomb over the past few years. Last year, the company shot an infomercial at the San Diego County Fair.

"We use fairs for advertising purposes," he said. "People are more likely to buy something online that they've seen in person before."

Leonard Correa of Tustin walked through the shopping area with his wife and nephew to look at the "gadgets," but wasn't interested in making any serious purchases.

"My only goal is to get to the cinnamon rolls outside," he said.

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